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AILG-CMG Survey Report Reveals Alarming Rates of Abuse and Harassment Faced by Councillors in Ireland

Dublin, Ireland – 12th March 2024.

The national representative body for councillors, the Association of Irish Local Government (AILG), has today released the findings of its latest survey report, shedding light on the prevalence of abuse, threats, and public intimidation experienced by councillors across Ireland.

Conducted in collaboration with the Crime Management Group (CMG), the online survey reached out to all 949 councillors in the Republic of Ireland with the results painting a sobering picture of the challenges faced by councillors. Over 63% of respondents reported experiencing threats, intimidation, or harassment between April 2021 and September 2023.

Speaking in response to the findings, President of the AILG, Cllr. Gail Dunne said that the report underscores the urgent need to tackle the normalising of abuse and harassment of councillors and to protect the future of local democracy.

“The AILG have serious concerns with the report findings as they demonstrate very little improvement in the rates of abuse and harassment experienced by our members since we conducted our first survey back in 2021. It is clear that this issue continues to affect our members’ ability to effectively carry out their role and cause them significant concerns about their own safety and security, and that of their families.

We must ensure their safety and well-being as they serve our communities.

If anything, the issue is becoming more widespread which has been fuelled by the ongoing housing crisis. While our members fully appreciate that they should be challenged and scrutinised as part of their role as public representatives, no councillor should have to face threats to their personal safety or receive threats directed against their families. This is unacceptable and goes against the fundamental principles of free speech, democratic engagement, and debate.”

Key findings from the survey include:

  • Widespread Incidents: Over 63% of respondents reported experiencing threats, intimidation, or harassment between April 2021 and September 2023. Shockingly, almost 26% stated they were currently facing such incidents.
  • Nature of Threats: Councillors reported threats of violence, damage to property, death threats, arson, and even threats of sexual violence. More than 38% encountered threats via social media, while almost 33% faced threats in face-to-face encounters.
  • Impact on Wellbeing: The survey highlights the significant impact on councillors and their families, with over 56% expressing worry or extreme concern. This stress has led to over 50% considering leaving their roles due to threats and harassment.
  • Lack of Preparedness: While there has been a slight decrease from the 2021 survey, indicating positive impacts of security awareness training and measures, more effective advice and response processes are needed.
  • Low Prosecution Rates: Despite over 25% of threats being reported to An Garda Síochána, only 3.5% resulted in prosecutions. This suggests an urgent need for improved measures to address these crimes.

The survey also details various incident types, from campaigns to discredit councillors to more distressing occurrences such as physical attacks and racial abuse.

Cllr. Dunne confirmed that as part of a number of recommendations, the AILG will be engaging with the office of the online safety commissioner, of Coimisiún na Meán, to highlight the particular problem of online abuse towards councillors. He added that the Association is also working with Crime Management Group to develop the provision of immediately available 24/7 on-call advice and response to general personal security queries, or in cases where councillors feel that danger is imminent.

The full report, including detailed findings and recommendations, is available to download HERE.

For media inquiries and interviews, please contact:

Elaine Lynch Communications Officer (AILG) / 087-3470274.

Notes to Editor:

  • The survey had a total of 226 responses, representing a response rate of almost 25%, an increase from the 2021 survey carried out by AILG and CMG.
  • The Association of Irish Local Government (AILG) is the primary body representing the democratically elected members and their member local authority. It is a networking, policy development and training resource for the elected members of Ireland’s thirty-one county and city councils.
  • CMG is a management consulting practice that specialises in helping organisations deal with risks that emanate from criminal or terrorist activity. CMG works with many prominent private and publicly quoted companies, NGOs and government organisations introducing change to ensure effective reduction of criminal and terrorist activity, and management of risks emanating from such activity.
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